My Experiences in a Wat [Emmet]

You walk in the wat. You take your shoes off. If you look straight, you see an old glass shrine, sometimes with things monks have touched. To your left and right, you see paintings on the walls. If you look closely you see a statue, or a Buddha, with gold foil on it. Finally, you walk out and see people with orange robes on. Those are monks. Some are fully grown, and some are only ten. They train and train to be monks.  It is not easy. Have you realized that everywhere is so old and beautiful? If you look on the trees you might see Indian plums. They are very bitter and sour. I took a bite and regretted it. You walk out of the place and you see an old little shrine covered in vines. You walk back to your house smiling.

A New Year - First Days in Chiang Mai

Standing barefoot in front of the golden reclining Buddha, two Thai women prostrate in silence, Asa whispered to me, “I would pray too if I knew how.”

It was our first full day in Chiang Mai. Jetlagged, hot, disoriented, the spicy khao soi still fire on our lips, and yet he wanted to enter into every room in every crevice of that wat. Asa, who had been devouring any Hindu book he could get his hands on before our trip, began to pick up the influence of Hinduism on the development of Thai Buddhism. Today, it all became alive.

And that was the day. It was not without whining and moments of unsteadiness in our new surroundings. 

Case in point: Chris trying/failing to figure out how to buy filtered water in a machine around the corner from our new house.

But it was as if I watched each kid evolve in one day. From the profound to the banal, from the discussion with the young monk studying AI on the nature of the mind, to riding in our first songthaew (prompting a discussion on ‘danger’ and how much a society ‘protects’ one from danger vs. one’s own autonomy to protect oneself), to our kids learning how to use the ‘bum gun’ instead of toilet paper (with just one mishap!), everything was new.

The first of many coconuts for Emmet

Obie rocking spicy food

First songthaew ride

We are not yet in our routines. We still fall asleep reading to our kids each night. We are starting exercise/Thai classes next week. I haven’t had a moment alone in days. And despite all of that, this new year feels pretty awesome.

Arrival at the airport in Chiang Mai!

Update from Emmet

To me {Emmet}, I think the trip idea is amazing! I’m so excited, I have never gone to Southeast Asia or Italy! I am most excited to go to Sicily and Sardinia, Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Hoi An… I’m so excited for our whole trip. So far we have been to Boston, Massachusetts, Rochester, New York, New York City, New York {which we are in right now}, and then Chiang Mai! 

Every day we write in our journals about our days. Here is the front of mine.

In New York we went to see the Statue of Liberty. I loved it so much because it’s bigger than you think, and it is made out of copper. The statue is important because it symbolizes freedom and peace when people come to New York on ships escaping persecution. The statue is the first thing they see. Here is a picture I took of the back of the Statue of Liberty.

So far my favourite place we have gone to was in Boston because I loved all the bricks because it looked so cool and red and old. After all, Boston is so old. Here is a picture I took in Boston.

Soon, we will visit Times Square at night!!                                               

P.S. we leave for Chiang Mai on Sunday!!!

Announcing Obie's Book Log

I have decided to keep track of every single book I read during this trip on this page. This list will keep growing as the trip goes on. Feel free to read the books I have on here, and suggest other books for me to read in the comment thread below! The asterisks next to the books are the ones that I really enjoyed.


We just moved locations after what was a whirlwind of sightseeing and friends in Boston. So much love and appreciation for Mandie and her family who were such incredible hosts. Laughter, interrogation of the flawed retelling of the Salem Witch Trials, hot tubs, retracing old Harvard haunts, Italian ices, new rituals of journaling and online schooling, lobster, the most delicious cookies I’ve ever eaten, generosity of friends, and appreciation of the sweet lives they have built for themselves.

We arrived last night in a funky Airbnb in Rochester to spend time with my brother, sister-in-law, and to meet my new (first!) nephew, Evan.

On this quiet morning, our first with low clouds and threatening thunderstorms, the muddy Eerie Canal pacing below, I watch my kids adapt to a new place. In Boston, we slept together in the same room. My youngest two kids were at each other’s throats. Yes, we stayed up way later than normal. Yes, we pushed them outside of routine and its comfort. Yes, it was the first stop on our journey, with so much uncertainty about what is to come. But it was not pretty and we were not at our best.

At this Airbnb, Emmet has been ‘gifted’ his own room. It was incredible to witness the change of character that emerged. He laid out his pens in the rainbow order of choice and intently dove into his creativity and calm in a way that felt right to him.

It makes me wonder how we are going to create the space for each of us on this trip. It is clearly something I have wrestled with myself over the years. What do I need to do to cultivate a sense of wholeness – that ineffable balance between grounded and expansive? Is the quiet of the mornings sufficient? How will we do that on this trip for each of us? How can this exploration be part of our collective journey so that each of us can better learn ourselves and our needs – both together and alone?